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Canberra driving: its a jungle out there

By BundahBoy - 30 June 2010 61

Firstly thanks to the Riot Act team for throwing together a cracking forum. It truly helps to exorcise that itchy Canberra rant.

Im born and bred Canberra but left to live overseas around 12 years ago. Ive just returned to do what I promised myself never to do: work in the Public Service. High-five!

I came back to enjoy the many rosey-tinted recollections of the Berra that I had carried along my travels: the quality of the air, wide open spaces you dont find in most cities, the proximity to the snow and the coast and three lanes of empty roads in every direction. Thanks for the memories.

But what happened to three lanes of empty road bliss I remember so fondly? Peak hour in the ACT (or the ‘Public Service grand-prix’ as my boss calls it) is pure madness and Canberra PSGP drivers really take it up a notch. Big statement I know considering I’ve driven through Delhi on a motorbike, but in the last three months I have never been so defensive behind the wheel.

Whats with the people that drive at 40km in 80km zones and when you try to overtake them they accelerate in an attempt to run you off the road, or into a tree, or both?  What about being Tailgated at high speed so close that you cant see their headlights but they dont overtake you, is that fun for them? Or drivers that pull out in front of you at the very last minute that don’t even bother checking to see if you’re there?  And people with their indicators always on! Dear oh dear I could go on and on.

And after all the crazed public servants who have competed for a podium place have made it home alive,  the empty roads are stalked late night by drunk/stoned/tripping bogans in early model Commodore sedans on the run from the coppers.

Anyways, over dramatics aside, can anyone enlighten me on why they think the common Canberra driver is so bad? I should know, I am (or was) one.  But I got nothing.

What’s Your opinion?


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61 Responses to
Canberra driving: its a jungle out there
Woody Mann-Caruso 12:57 pm 30 Jun 10

Would you like some French cries to go with your waaahmburger? You’ve driven in Delhi but think that sleepy Canberra is ‘pure madness’? Hysterical exaggeration, much?

triffid 12:53 pm 30 Jun 10

OK . . . so there’s mostly reasonable competent operators out there. But, it is equally fair to say that the incompetents are over-represented. The PSGP is not an entirely enjoyable experience. Tailgaters: check. Ultra-violet indicators: check. Inability to merge: check (you’d get strung up if you merged like that in, say, Austria). Driving at all times at night with fog / driving lights on: check (it’s illegal, people). Driving with no lights on at all, in grey / silver vehicle, when rainy or at dusk / dawn: check (I know you can see, but no-one can see you). ‘Hook’ turn when turning right / left: check (if you’re turing right, Mavis, please do so from as far as practicable to the right as possible. Don’t swing the car left just before you turn in you lazy cow . . . just turn the wheel a little more and faster from closer to the centre line). Turning into left hand lane of dual lane carriageway when turning right into it from single lane / traffic controlled side street: check (also illegal, not to mention dangerous). P platers: check (‘P’ for pathetic, particularly unskilled, performance challenged, poor attitude etc etc).

I see these things all over OZ, but I swear the density of it in Canberra is increasing. the lack of enforcement . . . could be something in that. But, it also starts with education. Some of Mark Skaife’s recent comments are worth considering. The demonstrations I see of car control / road placement skills and general driver attitude are simply egregious.

Katietonia 12:43 pm 30 Jun 10

After having driven in the US, Europe, Canada, I have noticed how aggressive the drivers are here. I have no theory as to why the people of Canberra drive this way, other than they are used to being able to drive around on big roads with no other cars around.

I despise driving 40kms through the numerous road works at the moment, with someone driving 2cms up my **** to have them aggressively speed past me at the first chance they get. Sorry I can’t afford the fine if I get one!

I live in Fyshwick, the mecca of hoons where no law exists. I experience a near miss at least once a day there, usually someone in a ute failing to give way.

Holden Caulfield 12:36 pm 30 Jun 10

Deckard said :

What an original post!!

I really don’t know why anyone lives in this city. We seem to have the worlds worst drivers, cyclists, cops, local government, radio stations, newspaper, coffee, blah blah blah blah…

Nah, it’s just the cyclists that are the worst. I read that on here, actually.

Apart from that, Bosworth scored a hole in one.

Driver attitude is to blame (mostly). For some reason a cocoon of metal turns many otherwise normal and compassionate human beings into stark raving lunatics. I’ve suffered from the phenomenon a few times myself. It’s a weird thing, really. NFI why it happens, just need to relax and take a deep breath from time to time.

Clown Killer 12:15 pm 30 Jun 10

With the noticeable exception of a seeming pathological inability to merge (particularly on parkways) I can’t say that I have noticed Canberra drivers to be any worse than anywhere else in Australia (and similarly Drivers from other cities are no better than Canberra drivers).

Perhaps I’ve just got better and more rewarding things to do with my life than get all worked up about what some other a-hole is getting up to on the roads.

Doc Dogg 12:12 pm 30 Jun 10

Deckard said :

We seem to have the worlds worst drivers, cyclists, cops, local government, radio stations, newspaper, coffee, blah blah blah blah…

You forgot customer service, real estate agents and judges 😛

I have to say, most of the time I drive around Canberra it is a pleasant experience. Everything is easy to get to without taking forever sitting in traffic, but I do find that most people drive too fast and aggressive.

Last night I was driving home and was in pole position at the lights when I heard a siren. I couldn’t see where it was coming from, but it was close so I stayed where I was to make sure the intersection stayed clear when the light turned green. I paused for about 4 seconds and people started honking their horns and overtaking me at speed, just as a fire truck came speeding through the intersection nearing cleaning up a bunch of the idiots. They had to stop to let the cars clear the intersection and a bunch of drivers on the other side of the intersection took that as a cue to start moving too, further jamming the intersection and making the truck wait even longer. All for the sake of getting to the next intersection 10 seconds faster…

MsCheeky 11:26 am 30 Jun 10

Bundahboy, I agree with you. I think Australian (not just Canberra) drivers are very aggressive and very discourteous. This was really driven home to me after I did a MsCheeky world tour that took in New York, London, Paris, Istanbul, Bangkok and Singapore all in one trip, (though I have also travelled to many other countries and seen traffic in big cities in India, Vietnam, South America etc etc).

While traffic in those big cities is often noisy, with lots of horn-blowing, it is not aggressive in ways such as refusing to merge or give way, tailgating etc that you get here, where people seem to think that their bit of road is territory to be jealously guarded. Do people seriously believe that refusing to let the car next to you merge in front of you is going to get you somewhere sooner?

Why is this so? I got nothing either. Perhaps we’re just spoiled?

Erg0 11:22 am 30 Jun 10

My experience places “bad” Canberra drivers at the inattentive/clueless end of the spectrum for the most part, which is why I often do treat them as obstacles – I’d much rather have bad drivers behind me than in front of me. That said, I’m not exactly seething from door-to-door every day, the traffic here just isn’t that bad.

My pet theory is that Canberra suffers from generalised “slow town syndrome”. People here have never really learned how to move efficiently through crowded spaces, whether it be the Parkway at peak minute or the Canberra Centre on a Saturday afternoon. I don’t know whether I’m becoming less tolerant as I age, but I can’t go into Woden Woolies at the weekend without emerging with an overwhelming urge to punch someone in the face (probably the woman who left her trolley parked across aisle 5).

Sorry, what were we talking about?

Deckard 10:57 am 30 Jun 10

What an original post!!

I really don’t know why anyone lives in this city. We seem to have the worlds worst drivers, cyclists, cops, local government, radio stations, newspaper, coffee, blah blah blah blah…

Bosworth 10:19 am 30 Jun 10

I suspect that a main driver of the problem may be the individual/selfish mentality of drivers, which causes other drivers to be thought of as obstacles and competitors.

marcothepolopony 9:53 am 30 Jun 10

Remember the post in January this year when a reader posted that there was little or no ‘tailgating’ happening?
We knew by June when the tradies were back at work this short lived reprieve would cease, and how right we were.
We are right to be exasperated by hoons in Commodores tailgating us on the Parkway every afternoon.

Very Busy 9:40 am 30 Jun 10

Unfortunately, about 10 years ago, Stanhope decided that the best way to enforce our road rules was to use speed cameras. He decided that traffic police were no longer needed because the speed cameras could do their job.

Also unfortunately, he forgot that speed cameras don’t detect all the other road rules. He also didn’t realise that you would need speed cameras every 100 metres on every street in Canberra make any difference to the speeds that people drive at.

The result is that people do the wrong thing because they can. We now have a free for all on Canberras streets and it has been progressively worsening over the past 10 years. Sure, every now and then we have traffic blitzes but they are usually just speed traps or RAPID checks and are conducted on wide safe roads such as Adelaide Ave or the Monaro Hwy to target safe drivers who drive at 85kmh in an 80 zone.

The decline will continue unless we go back to the old way. Stanhope may even have to throw some money at proper enforcement of the road rules (heaven forbid). Even if he did, it will probably take 10 years of low tollerence traffic police saturation to change the attitudes of Canberra drivers back to where they were in the 80’s and 90’s.

I’m not just talking about road safety here. I’m also talking about the rude, ignorant, arrogant and self centered behaviour that is now so common and makes driving so much less enjoyable than it used to be.

icantbelieveitsnotbu 9:34 am 30 Jun 10

I starts in the education… we should have professional driving instructors teaching students how to drive, at least when they first get in the car. After that, if the parent (who are mainly responsible for passing on many bad habits mentioned) want to teach, so be it.

Spoono 9:32 am 30 Jun 10

I’ve been driving in Canberra for nigh on 6 years now and I’ve not had a problem with other road users.

Rollersk8r 9:21 am 30 Jun 10

Agree. I think it’s 3 main things: (1) Canberrans are used to their big wide roads getting them anywhere within 15 minutes. People lose their patience when it takes 25 or 30 minutes, thanks to poor planning like the GDE (among others). (2) Speed camera vans – part of an unbelievably lazy approach to “safety”. People know that the chances of getting caught driving aggressively are almost zero. I could go on and on about this. (3) A whole generation of drivers who have never been pulled over by the police for anything. There’s never any police presence – I think I’ve been breath tested precisely once in the last 10 years.

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